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High Stakes on the Riverfront

Fort Wayne Magazine has covered Headwaters Junction it is August and November issues in two articles titled “Thinking Big Inspired by Historic Locomotive” and “High Stakes on the Riverfront.”

Thinking Big Inspired by Historic Locomotive
Jennifer Dodds Fox, August 2012

“The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Inc has an impressive record of thinking big – and the historic city steam locomotive No. 765 is a colossal big and perfect focus for the society’s energies.

The society has been at work for 40 years, with its mission growing from a cosmetic renovation of the engine long on display in Lawton Park to a nearly million-dollar restoration that required 15,000 volunteer hours and put the locomotive back in service in 1979. This summer’s schedule will have No. 765 putting another 4,000 miles in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania (crossing Illinois and Indiana between trips) operating employee trains for Norfolk Southern Railway, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It is one of the last vintage steam locomotives in operation in the world, and it attracts crowds whenever it runs.

“One thing we’re often reminded of is that we’ll have 40,000 people visit us in Iowa or Cleveland, but the engine largely remains unknown at home for a variety of reasons, one being that it’s kept in a garage near the state line,” said Kelly Lynch, of the society. “For being such a visible and attractive part of Fort Wayne’s growth, it definitely deserves to be discovered by more.”

And it just might be.

“The popular downtown redevelopment concept known as Headwaters Junction – which would feature the 765 in a mixed use attraction at North River – has been advanced by the Legacy Fort Wayne task force for further consideration by the mayor and city council.”


High Stakes on the Riverfront
Connie Haus-Zuber, November 2012

“Right now, Fort Wayne and the entire region have a chance to do something right, to capitalize on the rivers that have been our bane and blessing since time immemorial.

A pent up demand for access to our rivers has joined increased awareness of how cool riverfront places are in other cities.

A light really is shining at the other end of the tunnel through which the city will travel as it decides how to use the Legacy fund for what everyone is calling a “bold and transformative” riverfront project. And it really is a train.

“It’s No. 765, the 1944-Berkshire steam locomotive that the city saved in 1963 and put on display in Lawton Park after it pulled the first rain across the elevation that opened up development of the city’s north side and triggered Fort Wayne’s boldest amd most transformative economic boom to date.”

No. 765 hasn’t been on display at Lawton Park since 1974, though. Thanks to the skill and dedicated hard work of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, it has been put back on the rails where time and again it demonstrates its star power, attracting thousands to buy tickets for its excursions and tens of thousands to watch on its way.

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society volunteer and spokesman Kelly Lynch first suggested bringing No. 765 back home to downtown from its current domicile in the country east of New Haven as early as 2006. Even though the historic freight station building at Clinton and Fourth Street that could have been part of what Lynch calls Headwaters Junction is gone, using the steam engine as an attraction to build traffic for the retail, restaurant, residential, recreation, and entertainment businesses that could be developed there is still an idea with currency. It got the attention of the Legacy Fort Wayne Downtown and Riverfront Development Champion Team, and it was one of the top three projects in public online voting the Legacy task force used.

The Champion Team report says “the Headwaters Junction proposal proved to be big, bold, and transformational. Incorporating this feature within a mixed-use development should not be overlooked.”

Lynch and all of No. 765’s fans are waiting eagerly for the next steps.

The newly dedicated Martin Luther King Jr. bridge on Clinton Street over the St. Mary’s is a grand gateway to the heart of downtown and is a beautiful structure with its wide walkways, soaring superstructure, and fun colorful light shows at night.

No. 765 would look so good steaming past it.

[Former Mayor] Graham Richard says the city is facing a leadership challenge today, the same challenge it had to answer to build Harrison Square.

“It’s the same question for any other multimillion dollar development,” he said. “Where will the leadership come from? The public or private sector? Who will take the lead to move vision to action?”